Is It An Exclusive Club, Or Not?
Despite IAEA warnings that 30 countries will have the capability to build nuclear weapons in the next ten years, President Bush does not have a coherent policy on nuclear proliferation.
On the one hand, President Bush organized the Proliferation Security Initiative which allows the United States to stop and search any other nation's shipping, flights, and trucking to search for nuclear contraband. On the other, President Bush is largely responsible for obstructing measures to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Regarding the two biggest proliferation problems today, Iran and North Korea, President Bush just told Iran, "it's a right of a government to want to have a civilian nuclear program," yet he refuses to allow North Korean development of civilian nuclear power. This disconnect has not gone unnoticed by other members of the Six-Party forum, leaving South Korea, China, and Russia all united with North Korea against the United States in favor of allowing Kim Jong-Il to keep his civilian nuclear program.
Another anomaly is President Bush's recent agreement to transfer nuclear technology and expertise to India. This bizarre move has alternately been explained as a way to strengthen India as a bulwark against the yellow menace from China, and as a bargaining tool to make India less dependent on Iranian oil in return for support against Iran's nuclear program.
But India flatly rejected either role and is strengthening its ties with both China and Iran. In any case, the Bush/India agreement itself is opposed by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress who worry that India will share US nuclear technology with its strategic energy partner, Iran.
And taking a larger view, President Bush's gift of advanced nuclear technology to a country that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty sends the wrong message to other countries considering nuclear capabilities.
For the UN's 60th anniversary, Kofi Annan wanted to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but was obstructed by President Bush, who refuses to link reduction of existing nuclear arms with preventing their proliferation. The same thing happened last year, and all of this leaves the world with no clear ideas or leadership on stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
President Bush's approach to nuclear proliferation is a rat's nest of contradictions and squandered chances to assert leadership. It is possible to keep the nuclear weapons club from growing, but the opportunity is fading. By pursuing an inconsistent non-proliferation policy and insisting that America must enhance its own nuclear arsenal, President Bush is ensuring that other nations will continue developing and sharing nuclear capabilities.